Travel rewards encompass everything from airline tickets and hotel stays to cruises, activities (think rock-climbing or hot-air balloon rides) and other ancillary services like room or airline upgrades. Travel rewards aren’t solely for travel and hospitality brands like airlines and hotels, however. While many hotels have travel-themed rewards programs, these offerings are a good fit for most any rewards suite — from retail to banking.
Travel rewards are a top-performer for brands and a favorite among consumers. Why? It all comes down to the experience. Think about it: cash isn’t memorable. But cruises, upgrades to first class or weekend getaways are. And those positive memories and experiences go a long way toward not only showing customers you appreciate their loyalty, but also creating a positive association and experience with your brand.
The best practices
- Keep seasonality in mind. Peak season for other rewards, like gift cards and merchandise, is usually between October and December, when people shop for the holidays. After the New Year, there’s usually a spike in travel and airline bookings as people treat themselves to a post-holiday getaway or begin to plan for spring and summer vacations. Keep that in mind if you’re thinking about changing up your rewards suite: just because it’s not summertime, doesn’t mean people aren’t getting excited about a warm-weather weekend.
- Don’t switch it up too often. You don’t want your members to be saving up all year to redeem their travel points for a cruise or summer vacation, only to find it’s been removed from your rewards suite when they go to cash in. A best practice is to switch out rewards offerings quarterly. Swapping out your travel rewards every month or two is frustrating for rewards members because it doesn’t give them enough time to rack up miles or points.
- Reinforce brand values. A brand’s travel rewards can — and should — serve to reinforce brand identity and corporate values. For example, a luxury or adventure brand should include travel rewards and activities that offer a similar experience. Keep both your customer demographics and your brand values in mind when putting together a travel rewards suite.
- Communication is key. Are you gearing up to add travel rewards to your suite of offerings or make a major change to the platform? Let your rewards members know. Communicate with client teams so they can help with running a promotion or sending an email (one or two is enough) to members to keep them in the loop. Surprises are good, but making a major change to your rewards platform without informing members can be disastrous.
By the numbers
At $17 billion a year, the travel and hospitality sector is the second-largest industry in terms of rewards. Connexions Loyalty is on Travel Weekly’s 2015 Power List and offers access to 900 airlines and 180,000 unique hotel properties worldwide.